April 12, 2024

Press Freedom

Russian Federation

Russia June 20, 2005

H.E. Vladimir Putin
The Kremlin
Russian Federation
Fax: ( 011.7.095) 206-6277/ 5173

Your Excellency:

We are, of course, pleased and encouraged that the suspected instigator of the killing of Paul Klebnikov has been identified. Your prosecutors have said he is Khozh-Akhmed Nukhayev , a Chechen rebel leader, and that he hired assassins to kill Klebnikov, the editor of Forbes Russia , who had written a book critical of Nukhayev. The Overseas Press Club of America, which has defended press freedom around the world for more than 65 years, hopes that Nukhayev will soon be arrested, along with two suspects still at large, and tried with the alleged killers, Musa Vakhayev and Kazbek Dukuzov, also Chechens, who are now in custody.

A great deal remains to be disclosed about this disturbing crime, and we hope that a full and public trial will settle the doubts that many people have about the prosecutors’ case. As Oleg Panfilov, director of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, has been quoted in the American press, “All crimes are always blamed on Chechens.” In truth, Klebnikov had written critically about a great many people who might have had reasons to harm him — but from the first day after the murder, police have said that Chechens were suspected. Klebnikov’s brother, Michael, has said Paul had not told him of any threats made after his book about Nukhayev was published, and that Paul and Nukhayev had had “some very civilized discussions.” Only a full public disclosure of the evidence against Nukhayev and his alleged accomplices will lay these doubts to rest.

On another matter, we are both shocked and outraged by the harsh sentence imposed on the independent journalist, Nikolai Goshko on June 6, 2005, by an arbitration court in Smolensk . In a surprise ruling during what was supposed to have been a routine hearing, Judge Irina Malinovskaya suddenly sentenced Goshko to five years in a prison colony for defaming three Smolensk officials in a July 2000 broadcast on the independent station, Radio Vesna. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Goshko’s trial had been dragging on for five years, and he did not even have his attorney with him at the hearing. Courts of arbitration usually handle minor crimes and seldom impose such long sentences. The sentence is particularly absurd since the officials who sued Goshko, complaining that he had accused them of masterminding the murder of the owner of Radio Vesna, had asked only that he be given a one-year suspended sentence.

We ask you to set in motion an urgent and thorough investigation of the forces that impelled Judge Malinovskaya to act with such abruptness and severity, and to take whatever steps are necessary to make sure Goshko’s appeal of his sentence is promptly heard and adjudicated.

Thank you for your attention. We would appreciate a reply.

Respectfully yours,
Larry Martz
Norman Schorr
Co-chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee


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